Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wretched Excess

It's true. They're different than us. For example, I was in Augusta, Maine, last week. I picked up a friend at the airport. Tiny airport, especially for a state capital. Just four flights a day to Boston. But on the tarmac are parked dozens of huge corporate jets, dozens of them. So many, in fact, that they closed a runway to use as an overflow parking lot.

What's going on? Is there a hedge-fund convention this weekend?

"It's parents weekend."

Parents weekend?

"The summer camps. All the rich mummies and daddies have flown in to check on Billy--to make sure he's not lonely or homesick."

You gotta be kidding. I thought the reason you sent kids to camp was because you didn't want to see them.

A couple days later, at work, I get a job. Go to this office complex. A Mister Gorman needs a ride to Logan. He has a plane to catch to Nantucket and he's in a big hurry.

Gorman was heavy set. Expensive suit, with a flimsy set of wire-rimmed glasses and a couple suitcases.

It's rush hour. Storrow Drive is backed up to Mass. Ave. "Are we going to get there on time?" he asks, or rather, demands.

Sure. We'll go the back way, I tell him, through Haymarket. He seems pleased, as if he thought of it himself. Then he goes back to his Blackberry.

We get to the airport. Plenty of time. The fare is about $30. He hands me a credit card. I ask him if he wants to include a tip.

"Sure. Add fifteen."

Gee, thanks.

I help get his bags out of the trunk and hand him the receipt.

"What's this?"

What's the problem?

"Thought you'd drive off before I noticed, huh?"

You said fifteen. That's what I plugged in.

"I meant fifteen percent. How many of your fares give you fifty percent tips? You take me for some kind of asshole?"

You get all kinds in this business, I tell him. If you meant fifteen percent instead of fifteen dollars, you should have said so. Here's ten dollars back, good-bye.

"Hey wait," he shouts. "What's your name? I'm gonna tell your boss."

Good. Tell him. I'm sure he'll get a laugh out of it.

A bit later, I'm turning a corner. There's an old man with a cane, disheveled, teetering to maintain his balance near the curb with his arm outstretched. I stop.

"I'm not going far," he says apologetically, gently lowering himself onto the seat.

That's not a problem, I tell him.

Once in, he thanks me. He gives me an address in Cambridge. Like he said, not far.

The fare when we arrive is about $8. He thanks me again, and hands over a wad of bills. I count it out: Two five dollar bills and three ones. Thirteen dollars. A 60 percent tip.

Excuse me, sir. Are you sure you want to give me this?

"What did I give you?" he asks. I hand back the bills.

"Oh gosh, I'm so sorry." He rummages through his wallet, then hands back the wad. I count it out again. A ten dollar bill, a five, and two ones. Seventeen dollars. 110 percent tip.

Are you sure?

No, no. You were so nice to stop for me. Keep it.

I thank him, wait for him to make it safely to the curb, then pull away.

Like I told Gorman, you see all kinds.

19 comments:

  1. wonder if Mr. Goman is a republican... What a dick

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  2. Wow- that's nice. You never know....

    Just the other day I had sprained my ankle and had to take a cab back to where I was staying and the fare was $4.20. I handed him a $20 and said give me back $6 thinking I was being generous. He said he only had $5 left to give me, somehow managing to extract another dollar for his tip. I was in so much pain from my ankle I just couldn't have cared at that point to argue him taking advantage.

    Frustrating.

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  3. It's the same no matter where you are it seems, i work Belfast, Northern Ireland and in the 7 years i have been driving a cab i have learned that the best tips usually come from those you dont expect.

    Some of the best tips have came from those on a low wage!! Here in Northern Ireland tipping isn't part of the culture.

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  4. These hotshots are linguistically lazy. They think they're being cool, saying things like, add fifteen (and you fill in the blank). What a miserable man. the fact that he immediately assumed you'd cheated means that he himself would do things like that. Classic projection!

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  5. I thought tips were a sign of gratitude from a customer. The person performing the service is already collecting a pay check for the job. The utter arrogance that you are "owed" or even deserving of more than that is typical of those who resent the success or appearance of success of others. Driving the cab is your CHOICE. Working and studying a lot in college is a CHOICE that appeals to others which may enable them to afford a certain style of living. Many wealthy people simply worked their tails off to achieve e lifestyle they CHOOSE.
    As for the elderly man, shame on you for taking more money from him. If you
    aren't happy or satisfied with your income find a way to improve that situation
    which doesn't include judging people on their appearance, their income, or how much they can afford to tip you. Get real. You sit on your butt and drive around all day wondering why people you interact with for a matter of minutes aren't more inclined to throw money at you and demonize those who don't.
    Many people, Republican and Democrat, perform noble and noteworthy jobs every day and don't ask for so much as a thank you. They wouldn't accept a tip.

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  6. Number one: I don't ask and don't expect a tip from any of my fares--ever. That said, I also don't expect to be accused of cheating a man for a misunderstanding of his own creation. As for the old man, to suggest I somehow duped him out of his money is flat out wrong and insulting. I pointed out what I thought was an error on his part. He wanted to show his appreciation, and I accepted it graciously.

    Number Two: I don't pretent how "noble" my ccupation is compared to Anonymous, but cab drivers typically drive 12-hour shifts, six days per week, with no health insurance, no paid vacation, no pension and no workman's compensation. Many of them do it while also trying to put themselves through college or, conversely, their kids through college. Many also work a second job to make ends meet. Like waitresses, doormen, bellhops and dozens of other service occupations, tips are the only thing that are the difference between going hungry and a living wage. Next time Anonymous is standing out in a freezing rain in the middle of the night looking to get home, maybe I'll have the good fortune of picking him or her up. I'll take them wherever they want to go. And I won't even ask for so much as a thank you.

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  7. "...Number one: I don't ask and don't expect a tip from any of my fares--ever." You clearly stated that you did ask for a tip with regard to Mr. Gorman going to Logan "I ask him if he wants to include a tip..."
    Really?

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  8. Why is that some people think that if you are wealthy you "worked your tail off"? Many of us who are not wealthy also work our tails off.

    Not all people who are wealthy work their tails off - your comment is so insulting. I guess you think those of us who are not wealthy and who do work their tails off are somehow lazy bums.

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  9. My grandfather told me, "The reason they've got money is because they hate to share it." He always tipped well. Everyone said, "He's a good egg," and were happy to see him...and not just for the tips.

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  10. The wife and I go for long walks. Sometimes we wear ourselves out. Getting a cab when you want one or need one is a wonderful thing. Thank you to cab drivers

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  11. Anon sounds like a troll, don't feed it anymore!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29

    Keep up the great writing there taxi man, always enjoy reading your blog.

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  12. Yeah man, I am enjoying your blog. Keep up the great stories and ignore that anonymous guy. He's probably Mr. Gorman. Living in the SF Bay Area I see guys like that all the time.

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  13. First off, it's always amazing to me that someone insulting you on your own blog lacks the class to properly identify his/herself. (Notice I have identified myself)

    Secondly, this is the United States of America, a place where service industry workers have every right to expect a tip if they carry out their job in a respectable manner. Cities set cab rates and the federal government sets wait-staff rates well below minimum wage all with the expectation that consumers understand these workers are similar to independent contractors. You are paying the restaurant for the food and the cab company for the ride. Each worker sees a small portion of that money, but it's left up to the consumer to account for the price of the individual's services. Service isn't free!

    Anonymous is either a foreigner or a bigot who clearly has no service industry experience, otherwise he/she would understand the importance that gratuities play in our society. There are plenty of other countries that include the price of service in their meals, rides, etc. We aren't one of them.

    Finally - love reading the blog. Keep it up.

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  14. God that guys mouth must be making his asshole jealous, he talks so much shit!
    If anyone goes out of their way to get me to my flight on time I would tip because I was well brought up to say thank you.
    Karma. Karma.

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  15. Ditto what John said...not to mention the kidney problems , and hip problems I could give hundreds of circumstances how hard we work and have no medical or pension...That dude is a troll, starve him, and keep up the brilliant work, and writing. Peace.

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  16. I'm glad you responded to the asshole. It's outstanding that some people in America don't understand how America works, tip is not included, you have to give a tip, and if you don't we can't say anything, but it's karma, and if you never tip, you'll get yours someday, you'll burn in hell, and maybe then your back will feel like mine, sitting in a broken seat in a car you can't even afford to drive, because I choose to have an occupation where I have to prove myself everyday, to 30 people a day, not some lazy asshat's job that I might get if I bullshited a little bit more in job interviews about how good I am at whatever specialty the job requires. I chose taxi driving, because i chose to be honest. Much like myself, the fantastic writer of this blog has even modestly left out the part where he did go to college, and he had a great profession in a field that no longer exists. Don't assume that people who have jobs you'd never dream of having are assholes. That could be you one day, and you know what, the job is pretty cool actually.

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  17. If I can afford to take a cab (vs. the T, walking, or riding a bike), I can certainly afford to add a tip. Swipe credit card, press 25% tip button, say "Thank You", exit cab.

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  19. Asheville CabbieMay 26, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Great blog, man!

    When my customers use a credit card, I always ask, "How much would you like to make that for?"

    I do it that way because the credit card machines we use don't really have a way to add a tip in as a seperate part of the transaction...

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